The long and winding road

Well, today’s The Big Day – phew!

While many a motivated citizen look forward to the outcome of the election and the start of a new chapter in our political history, there are of course those wearied Americans who are just tired of all the political talk, tired of all the bickering, tired of their regularly scheduled programming being pre-empted for debates and such, and who just want this thing to be over so we can all get back to our everyday business.

And for that wearied, put-upon or apathetic voter, we say: just hang in there.  It’s been a long political season, but there’s a light at the end of the tunnel.  (Country Western fans and more cynical voters may insert “Let’s just hope it’s not an oncoming train” here.)

And so today we take a recap look at the longest t-shirt election season we’ve seen ’round these parts.  We have The Meter to track candidate sales per date ranges, and today we’ll also share a few highlights that hit on this long road to a new President.

Billary was the first to make an appearance on the 2008 political t-shirt scene; we started seeing “Bill for First Lady” shirts back in 2006, long before most of us had heard of that Obama character.

And so it was for awhile; lots of Hillary merchandise on both sides of the fence, as political pundits assumed that she’d be the Democratic nominee and Republicans didn’t have a clear leader in their posse.  Some early Hillary standouts:


Indeed, the “Anybody but Hillary” sentiment was a solid Right Wing mantra… right up until that other guy showed up, at which point Republicans were reminded of Mom’s “careful what you wish for” life lesson.

But before Obama was a household name – and seemingly out of nowhere – Ron Paul showed up and gave the other potential candidates a lesson on using the Internet as a viable way to raise a campaign, raise awareness and raise funds.

Though he made huge waves online, Ron Paul – like Howard Dean before him – was unable to carry that momentum out into the world to an extent that would win him the Republican nomination.  But to his credit, he managed to inspire a whole lotta people.  Not to mention a whole lotta t-shirts.

Huckabee, too, had some early promise in the t-shirt primary, but started to take a dive with Ron Paul and Hillary Clinton, who up to this point had been both the Democratic frontrunner and the Republican anti-Christ.

Which is to say that mainstream Republicans, unsure of their candidate, had been using anti-Hillary sentiments as their go-to mantras.

And then Obama showed up and change did happen.  Change in the form of a product explosion unlike anything we’ve seen in previous elections.

Obama merchandise was creative, inspired and staggering in its volume.  And as Hillary merch started a slow but steady decline, and John McCain made a minimal appearance that was slightly less popular than Al Gore’s draft movement, the Obama t-shirt primary exploded.

As of today, we have 1.7 million Obama t-shirts and 2.6 million Obama products overall.  That’s more merchandise than the entire George W. Bush catalogue, which has been enthusiastically built – mostly by the anti-Bush faction – over the past 8 years.

And so we’ll take a time-out to showcase some groovy Obama designs:

It was also around this time that the anti-Obama merchandise started to crop up, but the sheer volume and creative variety of the pro-Obama merchandise far outshone (and outsold) the anti-Obama camp.

With McCain as the presumed and then official Republican nominee, his merchandise popularity began a slow incline.  But Obama was still holding a strong lead in the t-shirt race until…

Yep, you betcha. Sarah Palin showed up, and inspired designers on both sides of the political fence went crazy.  Pit bulls, rifles and moose – oh my!  Yes, Palin t-shirts took McCain t-shirts with them into an upwards curve that actually met the demand for Obama merchandise, while the not-so-plentiful anti-McCain merch also saw an uptick as anti-Palin sentiments seemed to motivate the Left to design something other than Obama t-shirts.

And so it was that in mid-September, there was a dead heat in the McCain/Palin and Obama/Other Politician Dude merchandise race.  But that tie was brief, and even with supporters like hockey moms and Russia and the ever-popular Joe the Plumber, Obama again pulled ahead of Palin and McCain by the end of the month and their paths have continued to diverge ever since.

What will happen in today’s election is still an unknown.  What we do know is that this election season has led to the most interesting, creative and inspired t-shirt race we’ve ever seen.  And for that we thank the First Amendment and, of course, all the people out there who chose to get their mind onto their chests and wear it loud this political season.  (Just remember to spare the flair at your polling place.)

Indeed, a good race has been had by all.

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